As an adult, how many times have you been nude around someone else? Friends? Lovers? Family? Strangers? Likely not very often, since being naked, other than taking off your clothes and jumping in the shower, or quickly changing, remains taboo in our culture.
In a way, I understand it. The naked body is most often associated with sex, and so, we cover up the parts of our body associated with it. But of course we dress for so many other reasons: to be warm, to be comfortable, to be fashionable, to be symbolic, and so on.
But the taboo of being naked is just that: a taboo. It’s fear-based, and so we refrain from it. Maybe it’s too much to imagine walking around the streets of a city naked, but what about doing one of your favourite things in the comfort of your own home? Would, and should, being naked really change it?
Photographer Sophia Vogel knows nudity carries this taboo, and so she sought out to prove to people that being naked should feel just as natural as being clothed. “If you think of it right, we are all naked underneath our clothes,” she said.
In her photo series “With and Without,” Vogel got intimate with her subjects, entering their homes and asking them what their hobbies included. Whether it was listening to music or playing with their cat, she asked them to perform their hobbies with and without clothing. Taking photographs during their clothed state and then again during their naked state, she gave a side-by-side comparison of what a hobby looks like in these seemingly different contexts.
Though nakedness has certainly gained more popularity in the mainstream, allowing it to slowly escape the confines of the taboo world, it is still very much a shocking, inappropriate state to many.
“The pressure of being a sexual being is omnipresent for every human being,” Vogel said. “We are observed and judged every day, and the fashion industry lavishes beauty ideals and criticism on us. We set high standards for ourselves. I want to speak up against these ridiculous standards.”
But Vogel’s portraits show no signs of sexual connotation, despite nudity being so sexualized in modern society.
“By presenting all kinds of different body shapes and natural postures I would love to show that everybody is beautiful in their own way,” she said. “I love to present nudity in an aesthetic manner without any sexual context. Not every single nude photograph should be linked to sexuality.”
Even more intriguing about this photo series is that Vogel’s subjects are not models at all, but regular people who agreed to take part in the project by way of reaching out on Instagram, or word-of-mouth. Clearly, many others wanted to break the stigma, too, including the teachers, dentists, attorneys, and various other volunteers — most of them millennials — featured in the series.
“Right now, I am unfortunately only able to get ahold of the younger generations, but I would love to photograph a wide age range,” she said.
Photos: Sophia Vogel